So if you have been reading my previous posts, you will probably have noticed a lot of pictures of camping that I’ve taken myself. I’m not much of a photographer but I’m quite proud of those pictures! Anyway, I took them whilst I was completing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh award in July 2016, and they were taken on my phone.
For those of you who know what DofE is, you can skip the next section 🙂
What is DofE?
For those of you who aren’t from the UK and have never heard of DofE, it’s basically this charity that was set up by the Duke of Edinburgh (!) and it’s to inspire young people to do different things and gain new skills.
It’s made up of 3 progressive levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold – and to complete them you need to commit to 4 different activities:
- Physical. You can choose basically any sport, from shooting to football.
- Skills. This includes other activities like playing an instrument, cooking, designing a website etc.
- Volunteering. Pretty self-explanatory!
- Expedition. This is what most people mean when they say they ‘did DofE’. It involves a certain number of days walking and camping with a group of less than 7, and being self-sufficient.
For Gold, there’s a fifth requirement: to complete a 5-day residential course in something. I did a Headstart course at Sheffield University for engineering, but there are so many other options too!
The difference between Bronze, Silver, and Gold is that you have different timescales. For Gold, you can choose one of the physical, skills and volunteering to be 12 months while the other two are 6 months long.
The Gold expedition comprises of walking for at least 4 hours for 4 days and camping for 3 nights in ‘wild country’. However, we went up two days early for an acclimatisation day and left a day late so it ended up taking up a whole week!
Why I Did DofE
My school offered it in year 10 (I was 15) and it sounded really fun so I decided to sign up. Most people in my year did it, and I gotta say, the Bronze practice expedition was the most miserable DofE experience I’ve ever had. We went in the middle of March, and a British March is not the right month to be going outside!
It was raining practically the whole time, and when we arrived back at school to camp they decided to put on a film (which was nice) but the guys at the front picked the worst film I’ve ever seen. Later, we had to camp outside on the coldest night of the year so far. Nobody slept the entire night. Worse, we were right next to the boarding houses so you could see their lights and imagine the warmth inside!
I’m not the person to drop out though so I went through with the qualifying expedition for Bronze. Luckily this was in June so it was so much nicer! The temperature was perfect for walking, and it didn’t rain a single drop.
Since I was doing my volunteering, sport and music anyway, I figured it would be a waste if I didn’t do DofE on top. Bronze (qualifying) was really fun, so I decided to do Silver with my friends who also wanted to continue. Luckily, Silver passed without any real difficulties except for this one time when we got chased by a herd of bullocks in the middle of Devon…
We had already come across a lot of cows, and after the initial curiosity, usually they would mind their own business and we would mind ours. When we walked into this huge field with about 30 cattle, we thought it would be the same. Boy, were we wrong!
When we entered the field, the cattle stopped their grazing and started staring intently at us. As soon as we started walking along the intended plan of action, the cattle suddenly stampeded down the field… Towards us! We stood stock-still, unsure of what to do (you can’t outrun cattle).
As suddenly as they started running, they stopped right in front of us, barring our way.
OK, so we tried going around them. But again, as soon as we started moving, they stormed around in front of us!
Unsure of what to do, Helen came up with a great idea. They seemed to want to keep ahead of us, so if we split up, they wouldn’t know who to follow. We decided to try and go one by one towards the stile (the box) in the corner of the field.
It worked, for a while! Helen at the front managed to get to the stile and out of the field before the cattle realised what we were trying to do. Then they stampeded right towards me! I couldn’t run for it because I’d leave the rest of my group behind, so we were left still in the field with Helen outside. What were we going to do?
Helen’s ingenuity didn’t fail us.
She dumped her heavy bag and ran up the outside of the field yelling ‘Cows! Cows!’ The cattle charged after her voice behind the hedge, giving us a clear gap to make a break for it!
We dashed towards the stile and we all managed to get across safe and sound before the cows came charging back to try and cut us off again.
Apart from this terrifying but funny incident, we had such a great time doing Silver – the weather was lovely and my group was so much fun to be with! One of my friends, who’s about my height (short) and quite inflexible, got stuck on a stile… None of us could help her off because it was so funny!
Onwards and Upwards
Doing Gold was the obvious next step up for me, but all my other friends weren’t so keen because it takes up a whole week and sixth form is tough enough without extra commitments like DofE. Also, Gold comprises of two gruelling 4-day walks – one for the practice and one for the qualifying. We walked about 70km (44miles) for each and climbed about 3000m (990ft).
Most of my friends thought I was crazy, but I wanted to do it. I don’t regret my choice. Camping wild at Grisedale Tarn has to be one of the most unforgettable things I’ve ever done – the weather was amazing and the location was absolutely stunning. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can see two different lakes at the same time.
Next time I visit the Lake District, I will be without my huge heavy backpack (they weighed 15kg (33lb)) so I want to go up Striding Edge – the most famous ridge in the Lakes and possibly England. The view from the top there will be absolutely stunning!
So have you guys ever been hiking? Have you heard of any incidents like the one we had of the cattle? Tell me about it below!